The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office is investigating an incident caught on cellphone video in which white officers allowed a police dog to repeatedly bite a Black man during an arrest.
The video of the arrest Monday in the St. Louis suburb of Woodson Terrace has sparked outrage online and led the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial board to compare it to the pre-civil rights days in Alabama. The suspect is Black and the three officers shown in the video are white.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said in a statement that his office “is aware of this video, and we will make a thorough review of the incident.” He declined to comment further about the case.
Officers in Woodson Terrace, a city of about 4,000 people near St. Louis Lambert International Airport, were advised at 7:18 a.m. Monday that a man had broken into a business. Police said in a Facebook post that the man appeared to be on drugs, had threatened to kill officers, and had tried to walk away from them and into rush-hour traffic. The department didn't release the man's name.
It said officers tried to arrest the man but he resisted, prompting a warning that the police dog would be used if he failed to cooperate. When the man continued to resist, causing minor injuries to one officer, the dog was deployed, the department wrote.
The cellphone video shows the dog biting the man's foot as he yells out in pain. The dog's handler holds it by a leash but allows the biting to go on for about 30 seconds.
After the officer pulls off the dog, the man appears to take a step to run but stumbles, and the dog lunges at him again, this time biting a leg for another 30 seconds until the officer stops the animal. Officers then handcuff the man, who seems to be barely able to walk as he is led to a squad car.
The police department said in its Facebook post that an ambulance was sent to the scene but the man refused medical treatment. However, it says he later complained about his injuries and was treated at a hospital, but it didn't release details about the severity of his injuries.
Police said a substance believed to be methamphetamine was found on the man. He has not yet been charged and was released from police custody, police said.
Woodson Terrace's mayor didn't respond to an email message seeking further information. Police did not respond to phone messages.
The Post-Dispatch's editorial board wrote that use of the dog was “just like Birmingham’s infamous public safety chief, Bull Connor, did in the 1960s to deter Blacks from marching for equal rights.”